London Under

The Secret History Beneath the Streets

By Peter Ackroyd
(Nan A. Talese, Hardcover, 9780385531504, 240pp.)

Publication Date: November 1, 2011

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Description

London Under is a wonderful, atmospheric, imagina­tive, oozing short study of everything that goes on under London, from original springs and streams and Roman amphitheaters to Victorian sewers, gang hideouts, and modern tube stations. The depths below are hot, warmer than the surface, and this book tunnels down through the geological layers, meeting the creatures, real and fictional, that dwell in darkness—rats and eels, mon­sters and ghosts. When the Underground’s Metropolitan Line was opened in 1864, the guards asked for permission to grow beards to protect themselves against the sulfurous fumes, and named their engines after tyrants—Czar, Kaiser, Mogul—and even Pluto, god of the underworld.

To go under London is to penetrate history, to enter a hid­den world. As Ackroyd puts it, “The vastness of the space, a second earth, elicits sensations of wonder and of terror. It partakes of myth and dream in equal measure.”




About the Author

PETER ACKROYD is the author of London: The Biography, Shakespeare: The Biography, Thames: The Biography, and Venice: Pure City; acclaimed biographies of T. S. Eliot, Dickens, Blake, and Sir Thomas More; and several successful novels. He has won the Whitbread Book Award for Biography, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and the Somerset Maugham Award, among others.




NPR
Saturday, Jul 21, 2012

From the ultimate Olympic reference book to an account of the last London Games, bibliophile cabbie Will Grozier recommends books that put both the 2012 Games and their host city in context. More at NPR.org

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NPR
Friday, Nov 25, 2011

An entire world lies beneath the streets of London, from Roman amphitheaters to infamous gang hideouts to the modern day Tube. Guy Raz talks with writer Peter Ackroyd about his new book on this hidden world. More at NPR.org

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